"The New Certainties": Minimalism, Motivational Speakers & Looking For New Stuff To Believe In etc.


[The “Hughtrain” cartoon, 2004]

I’ve been seeing a pattern emerging. Here are some of the main ingredients:

1. That Marfa, Texas, one of the great Minimalist shrines in America is now a popular hipster destination spot.

2. One of my my favorite movies of recent years, Jiro Dreams of Sushi, which I’ve been raving about for months, is a big hit in the documentary world. It’s also a filmic love poem to Minimalism (Hey, the director used Philip Glass and Max Richter for the film score, I rest my case).

3. Blogs about simple living and Minimalism seem to be really trendy these days, minimalist bloggers like Zen Habits conquering the world.

4. “The Minimalist” is one of the most popular themes on Tumblr.

5. The continuing rise of Westernized Eastern thought: Buddhism, meditation, Yoga, Zen etc (I’m a big Alan Watts fan, but that’s another story).

6. The other thing I’ve noticed is “Personal Coaches” and “Motivational Speakers” seem to be everywhere. Whether we’re talking Anthony Robbins or Brendon Burchard… or the new job title out there, “speakerauthor” (People known mostly for writing books, but make most of their money doing public speaking: Tom Peters, Malcolm Gladwell etc.) Then you also need all the more technocratic, businessspeak consultant mandarin types out there as well… Like I said, they’re everywhere, it seems to be an increasingly booming industry.

7. That there seem to be more TED speakers talking about how wonderful Atheism is, than there are TED speakers telling people how wonderful Christianity or Judaism or Islam is.

8. The growing idea that the Internet is now a religion.

9. The growing idea that “Jedi” is now a religion.

10. The growing idea that Apple is a religion.

11. The financial and political implosion/impasse/dog’s dinner that is Western Europe/The Euro/The E.U..

12. U.S. Fiscal Cliffs.

13. Environmental and animal rights activists.

14. Burning Man.

15. Kickstarter.

16. Charity Water.

I could go on….

What does this tell me?

That we’re looking for new stuff to believe in.

That though the world is getting more and more complex, the old answers (Do what you’re told, buy a lot of stuff, obsess about THESE celebrities, worship THESE gods/THIS God, watch this trashy Reality TV, watch these crappy movies, read these crappy bestsellers, listen to this crappy music, believe these politicians etc.) aren’t working for us as well as they used to.

So we’re simplifying. We’re renewing. We’re clearing the decks. We’re doing a bit of spiritual Spring cleaning. We’re looking for new stuff to believe in. We’re looking for NEW CERTAINTIES.

Just like the “Hughtrain” cartoon above implies, we have an infinite need for it.

Sure, we like our old certainties (Mom’s cooking, a favorite pair of old jeans, small-town folksy ways, old school good manners, Ronald Reagan, old Jimmy Stewart movies at Christmas time etc), we are genetically programmed to seek out not only the new, but the NEW CERTAINTIES.

So I guess the next the question is, what “New Certainties” is your work bringing to the world?

If you don’t know, maybe best to find out… it’s where the real fun and action is to be found these days.

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  1. Hi Hugh,

    I’m a huge fan and you often make me laugh, cry and in general make me happy. I have to disclose that I met you at SXSW 2011 and you signed a print for me…as you were signing you asked me something like “are you a fan?” and I just stared at you. Because you talked to me. LOL.

    Anywho – I am co-founder of this tech event called Made by Few. It’s just me and two of my best friends who love design and startups. It’s an annual event and we are already starting to think about 2014 speakers and it would mean the world to me if you spoke. I am just now working up the nerve to formally ask you – I sort of tweeted you a week ago, too…but you probably thought I was a weirdo fan girl.

    The conference is intended to inspire the creative souls of the world…hopefully. It’s a lofty goal but we believe in our speakers and our audience. If you are interested please let me know. I might actually work up some nerve to actually talk to you in person this time around.


  2. Interesting post, thanks.

    Sometimes I think the world appears so different now from ever before in history that we collectively feel this huge disconnect with the past. Maybe the fabels of ancient, organized religion don’t resonate with modern society. Or maybe we desiree to be so different, so unique, that we alienate ourselves from our own ancestry. I don’t know what it is. But we seem to be so obsessed with looking at how things are different we miss what’s similar….

    To me the only certainty is your life’s purpose. And helping others to understand, connect with and engage in living out their life’s purposes is the kind of service I strive to provide.

    My own certainty is that I have a contribution to make, a mind to fully use and a responsibility to follow my values. All this comes from listening within, and not acquiescing to the proliferative propaganda of modern society. That’s my journey that I readily share and engage others in traveling through their own as well.

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